Attending a PWI can be trying at times.
In a place that was created centuries ago for people who were very much my opposite in social position, it is inevitable that some of the oldest traditions and institutions do not factor in my or other POC’s existence and experiences.
This past week the student body erupted in response to a series of racist and insensitive Opinions pieces in the university’s oldest newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald. I’ve witnessed a large portion of the student body rally together in solidarity with POC (People of Color) and other marginalized voices. It’s been both a frustrating and empowering week.
On Monday October 5, a student was given a platform to write not one, but two racist opinions pieces for the school’s primary news publication.
The first of the two, entitled “The White Privilege of Cows” argued that racial differences are biological in nature, and as such, certain races are inarguably more violent (blacks) or intelligent (East Asians).
The author writes, “…wealth, poverty, privilege, marginalization and oppression are very much a part of us and are inextricably written into our biology and history, at least for some of us.”
Her arguments subtly claim that eugenics are not necessarily a bad idea…
More than the repulsion that this article elicits, my issue is that these arguments are just plain wrong. The author uses dated and racialized science to make her arguments seem factual and logical. She claims that science can exist outside of society, which is simply not true! Since scientists are HUMAN they are inherently susceptible to bias, and therefore science can be skewed to reflect these racist values (see: “drapetomania“). There is an entire history of these types of arguments being used to justify hatred and oppression.
After the article came out, my newsfeed was peppered with posts by outraged students, and even worse, replies from the author telling people to “cry me a river” or things of that nature.
THEN, somehow soon after, an article by the same author goes out, entitled “Columbian Exchange Day.” This one went into details about how Native American students should celebrate and feel grateful for Columbus’ influence on this country instead of protesting Columbus Day. Because, if not for him, we would be without livestock and regular American food staples. In this writer’s opinion, these luxuries are more important that the livelihood and bodies of an entire people.
At this point it was clear that there was something systematically wrong here.
The Brown Daily Herald went on to “apologize“ for its offenses and deem them as “internal errors.” Here’s a screenshot of what they had to say for themselves:
Facebook and Twitter BLEW UP on Tuesday and Wednesday night, and everyone had an opinion on the matter. I was moved by how many students decided to take up arms and actually physically do something about this. I signed a petition along with many other black campus leaders calling the Brown Daily Herald to ACT and acknowledge their race problem in print and I know that other POC affinity groups did the same (Asian Students, Latinx Students, Native Students, Multiracial Students). It’s ludicrous for anyone to believe that these students, as smart as they claim to be, could possibly commit such an error twice in a row. Clearly those who run this paper lack both a regard for the experiences of their peers of color, and a critical eye.
- On Friday there was a die-in protest run by the Native Americans at Brown (NAB) group in which 100 or more students lay on the floor with signs for 52.3 minutes to represent the years of colonialism and eraser of their culture.
- This afternoon, there will be a campus demonstration to change the name “Columbus Day” to Indigenous People’s Day, now with more than 710 people expected to attend.
- Other school publications have done an excellent job of explaining exactly what is wrong with the Brown Daily Herald’s system.
Here’s what the editors of Bluestockings Magazine, a feminist-minded multimedia publication, had to say:
This marks yet another instance in which we are reminded of the ever-present bigotry on Brown’s campus, and of the investment that wealthy and predominantly white structures have in uplifting these vitriolic ideas. The burden once again falls on students who hold marginalized identities to assert and legitimize their presence—and anger.
This experience has me wondering: are other colleges and PWIs having similar issues with media representation and general insensitivity? Do POC have a voice on campus and enough allyship from other students? Share your story in the comments below.